Duke Nukem: Hell froze over, but cracks now appear

Just when we were all getting over the shock of Duke Nukem Forever actually hitting the shelves, another shock comes along: some public relations people take it a step too far in trying to create a good impression.

It would be fair to say the games industry media has not reacted well to the game since it made its appearance. The general theme of reviews has been that not only does the 80s style character look outdated in the more sophisticated games world of the 21st century, but the gameplay and mechanics is more suited to a past era.

That’s left the game’s public relations firm The Redner Group disappointed with some of the more critical reviews. The company made a now deleted post on its Twitter account that read “#AlwaysBetOnDuke too many went too far with their reviews…we r reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn’t based on today’s venom.”

Since then the account has been updated to say “I have to apologize to the community. I acted out of pure emotion. I will be sending each of you a private apology. I need to state for the record that [Duke Nukem publisher] 2K had nothing to do with this. I will be calling each of you tomorrow to apologize. Again, I want everyone to know what I was acting on my own. 2K had nothing to do with this. I am so very sorry for what I said.”

The big question now is whether the company’s staff are sorry for the threat itself, or for the fact that the threat was made public. After all, it’s hardly a shocking revelation that journalists who are overly critical about a game may find they are at the back of the line when it comes to getting review copies from the same firm in the future. However, it’s rare that anyone involved on either side is quite so publicly explicit about the set-up.

Ironically, the collected body of Duke Nukem reviews that has caused the reaction does itself suggest games reviewers are still pulling their punches with even the most critical review. Metacritic, which averages ratings from multiple sites (converting them to percentages) has the worst score for the Xbox 360 edition, but even then it receives an average of 48 percent.

In other words, even a widely panned game receives just a hair below what statistically should be an “average” score. Meanwhile user reviews on the same site average out at the equivalent of 37 percent, suggesting there’s a different level of expectation between those who pay for a game, and those who get it free of charge and hope to maintain that arrangement.

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